Song of the Day: What the Water Gave Me by Florence & the Machine
(Photo Credit: Cross Duck available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License).
There are many people with Bipolar Disorder who are currently unable to work (I think most of us have probably been there); but there are also many who do. I have a history of jumping in and out of sales assistant jobs, where I never lasted more than a few months; I was never really well enough to take a job in the first place but I was so stubborn and usually hypomanic when I applied. I would most often leave jobs voluntarily, I felt I could not continue due to panic and crippling anxiety.
However, I have also managed over two years in a sales admin role (1 yr full time, 1.5 yrs part time)- though I struggled a lot; and 3 yrs in my current admin assistant role for a catering company. The success in the latter I attribute to a role where I can pretty much get on with things on my own, far fewer hours (16 per week) and also some lovely, supportive colleagues.
I cannot stress how important routine is in keeping me as stress-free as possible. It really helps to know what’s coming next. My morning routine consists of the following:
-Getting up at 5.30am every workday morning (bear in mind I’m a morning person!)
-5.45am Walk dog.
-6.15am Meditation/Yoga (just 15mins), then breakfast.
-7am Bus to work
I am lucky enough to have short, regular shifts at the same time each work day (4 per week)- 8am-12pm. The afternoons I’m usually surprisingly tired and often have a nap (not sure if this a meds thing or just coz I get up so early)!
I also have a regular routine at work where I pretty much do the same tasks in the same order every day. This can be dull, but generally I find security and assurance in the familiar works very well for me. I also have colleagues flitting in and out of the office to chat to- so that helps. I find the regular social interaction vital to my mental health (although it can cause more stress than the work itself when not in balance). When I was off work for nearly two years I became too reclusive and started to feel pretty lonesome. But I was also struck severely with anxiety about being “out in the world” again.
Getting out of this rut was difficult. I had to step out of my comfort zone and arrange some voluntary work to improve my confidence. It was also a good-“no pressure”- stepping stone. I worked for a few months in a primary school listening to the kids read and generally helping them with classwork, followed by some admin work in a large company. I think without the voluntary work I would have struggled to believe I could be of use to anybody, so couldn’t possibly expect someone to pay me!
Finding your feet again after a major Bipolar episode can be a scary process, but I think it was important for me to be patient with myself and trust that I would know when the time was right to move forward. Baby steps were important, even little things like going into the city by bus, meeting a friend in the city, going out with a group of people, were helpful. Once these felt more comfortable I moved onto voluntary work and I also tried an evening class. Slow and steady was the key! Also accepting when I wasn’t able to work and giving myself permission to relax and “enjoy” (as much as you can with depression) the time off as much as possible. I deserved time off. I was struggling with a horrible disorder which took me through despair, bleakness, trauma, self-abandonment and the darkest days of my life, and if this is you at the moment- relax, you deserve and need the time off. Be good to yourself!
I have a few more posts on employment to come so keep your eyes peeled!